Food Labels Are Becoming Stupidly Simple. Here’s Why That’s Awesome.

Food Labels Are Becoming Stupidly Simple. Here’s Why That’s Awesome.

You’re an intelligent man. Sure, maybe not Matt-Damon-in-Good-Will-Hunting intelligent, but you’ve got a reasonably high IQ and can mentally calculate the square root of most numbers.

But do you know the difference between expiration date labels on food packages? You know, the myriad terms (there are 10) you study on the milk before you heft the gallon into your cart: Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before, Better If Used By, Best By, and so on.

Here’s the thing: While you should be able to decipher them with some brainpower, it would just be a whole lot simpler if the loaf of bread told you when it’s freshest, and when you’re nearing the danger zone, so you don’t have to spend five minutes reading blurred stamps or searching a slice for mold.

So, in a new industry-wide effort—lead by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association—to reduce head scratching, food waste, and the ingestion of potentially spoiled foodstuffs, retailers and grocery manufacturers are nixing all labels but two: 

  1. “BEST If Used By” relates to product quality; it might not be at peak freshness, but the food is still safe to eat
  2. “USE By” refers to products that are highly perishable and might have a food safety concern over time. You’ll want to eat foods before this date listed on the package.

You’ll start seeing the label change take effect now with all-over integration by summer 2018, so companies have the time and flexibility to make consistent changes.

“Our product code dating initiative is the latest example of how retailers and manufacturers are stepping up to help consumers and to reduce food waste,” Pamela G. Bailey, Grocery Manufacturers Association president and CEO, said in a press release.

Now that your food labels have been decoded, work on making healthier choices. Check out our guy’s guide to healthy grocery shopping.

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